Tim Kaine delegation visits Turkey on foreign trip

tim kaine-newToday, a congressional delegation led by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, completed a two-day visit to Turkey.

Yesterday, the delegation traveled to the Syrian border town of Gaziantep to meet with interim Syrian government officials and local council representatives, Syrian opposition forces, as well as independent Syrian media activists. The delegation also visited an urban refugee center that provides Syrian refugees with critical basic services and the headquarters of the Syrian American Medical Society for a roundtable with local NGOs providing humanitarian assistance, emergency response, and medical care to victims of the conflict in Syria.

In April, Kaine joined U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, Lindsey Graham and John McCain to call on President Obama to immediately establish and enforce humanitarian safe zones in Syria to protect civilian lives and supply lines for food, water and medical supplies. In May, Kaine also urged President Obama to significantly increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. The Syrian conflict has led to the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Following his meetings in Gaziantep, Kaine stated, “In the face of the horrific brutality of the Assad regime, the will and hope of the Syrian people remain strong.  I am inspired by the work of these everyday heroes, including emergency responders and doctors helping victims of barrel bombs, local government officials keeping the lights on, and media activists reporting critical news to the people inside Syria and their plight to the outside world.  All of these individuals are preparing for a better day when Syria is free of civil war, and more needs to be done to support them.  These meetings have reinforced my strong commitment to the creation of humanitarian safe zones to protect the Syrian people from the regime, ISIL, al-Nusra, and any other calamity they face.”

Today in Ankara, the delegation met with Turkish Prime Minister Davutoğlu and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu to discuss a wide range of topics including the strong U.S.-Turkey partnership and shared regional concerns such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Russia.  The delegation also discussed counter-ISIL efforts and how to better secure Turkey’s border from foreign fighters and other extremist threats. Kaine expressed his deep appreciation for the generosity of the Turkish government and people in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis and for Turkey’s ongoing military and intelligence cooperation.

The delegation also met with think tank representatives to discuss the recent election and the future of the Kurdish peace process.

“Turkey remains a central partner of the United States,” said Kaine. “I applaud the Turkish government for its unparalleled efforts to address the plight of more than 2 million refugees who have sought safe haven from the conflict in Syria and for its strategic cooperation in addressing the ongoing threat from ISIL and other extremist groups. I look forward to our ongoing partnership to address today’s most pressing national security challenges, including the need to defeat ISIL, find a political solution to the conflict in Syria and support more inclusive and representative governments in other countries around the region.”

Earlier this week, the delegation spent two days in Iraq focused on political reconciliation and the U.S. mission against ISIL. Other delegation members include Senator Joe Donnelly, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Congressmen Jim McGovern, Stephen Lynch, Brian Higgins and Peter Welch.

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